Content Produced in Partnership with Visit Austin
Austin: Quirky, full of barbecue, filled with musical talents from around the country and bursting with the spirit of, well, Austin. While trying to describe Austin to people who have never been there, it’s easy to try and compare it to other cities. Those who have been will tell you the city really is a magical wonder all of its own, and one you have to experience for yourself to truly understand why so many people love it. From bat watching while paddle boarding to world-class museums, and from live music brunches with barbecue to tacos from a food truck, there is so much to explore in Austin. Whether you've lived in Austin your whole life or are just visiting for the weekend, we have 45 things you must add to your ATX Bucket List!
From gorgeous hikes to race car driving, Austin has lots to offer for those with an adventurous spirit.
1. Spend a day at Barton Creek Greenbelt: The go-to destination for outdoor enthusiasts in the city. Spend a whole day hiking, rock climbing, swimming, cycling, and even just relaxing. Make sure to check out Barton Springs Pool, Campbell's Hole, Gus Fruh, Twin Falls, Trail's End, and Violet Creek Trail. Pro Tip: Bring a portable hammock!
2. Go Bat Watching: There are 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats living under the Congress Avenue Bridge. From March to mid-November you can watch them fly out from under the bridge and fill the sky. Kind of spooky, but also spectacular. For a DIY experience, grab a spot on the bridge or rent a kayak. There are also several tour companies that offer bat-watching booze cruises.
3. Swim in a cenote: Did you know those shimmering blue pools tucked away in a limestone cave can be found just outside of Austin? Head over to Blue Hole or Jacob's Well and make reservations if you're going in the summer.
4. Float the San Marcos River: May through September is floating season in the Austin area! Head to the San Marcos River and spend a few hours participating in this age old floating party.
5. Go on a helicopter tour: Experience a bird's eye view of Austin and get some great photos!
Is there any other city that hosts as many festivals as Austin? We don't think so. While the list is endless, here are the ones we think are worthy of being on your bucket list.
7. Austin City Limits Music Festival: ACL Festival is a little like Christmas in October in Austin. Taking place in Zilker Park over two back-to-back weekends, the festival features eight stages and more than 125 performances.
8. Moonlight Margarita Run: Margaritas and Tex-Mex? Yes, please! First, work up an appetite with a 5K run around Lady Bird Lake, then spend the rest of the night sipping margs and dancing under the moonlight. It's all about balance, right?
9. Hot Sauce Festival: Get ready to see how much of the hot stuff your taste buds can handle! There's also tons of other food vendors, beer, and live music (of course).
10. O.Henry Pun-Off: Prepare to get punny at the punniest festival of all time. Okay, okay enough of the puns, we'll leave that to the punny experts. This cheesy festival will entertain any word lover.
11. Carnaval Brasileiro: One of the biggest Carnaval festival outside of Brazil! Go get your samba on!
12. Kite Festival: Let your inner kid run free with this whimsical annual festival. Fly a kite and participate in fun contests like The Largest Kite, The Most Unusual Kite, and The Strongest Pulling Kite.
Austin is one of those foodie cities where your whole itinerary can revolve around what you'll eat. You've got to add these Austin foodie spots and dishes to your Austin food bucket list.
13. Center a meal around doughnuts at Gourdough's: The whole menu is full of doughnuts like burgers with doughnut buns or salads topped with garlic doughnut croutons. For dessert, you've got anything from yellow cake batter doughnuts to bacon maple icing doughnuts.
14. Go on a taco crawl: You could probably spend a whole week eating nothing but tacos in Austin. Challenge yourself to spend a day hitting up all the taco hotspots. Here are some recs to get you started: Maria’s Taco Xpress, Vaquero Taquero, Tyson's Tacos, Juana Taco, Taco Deli, and Torchy's Tacos.
15. Wait in line at Franklin Barbecue: Legendary long lines that even Kanye couldn't cut. Rumor has it that Austinites and locals alike will wake up at the crack of dawn and wait four hours just to try to the famous brisket. Bring lawn chairs and friends (maybe also a snack) and make a day out of it. Don’t have time to wait in line? Visit la Barbecue in East Austin, where you can actually order your BBQ a few days before you arrive and pick up easy peasy once you touch down.
16. Try unique ramen from Ramen Tatsu-Ya: Hip hop DJs turned ramen chefs are the masterminds behind this Austin gem. You honestly can't go wrong with anything on this menu.
17. Go farm-to-table at Eden East: You can't get more farm-to-table than this. The chef and her staff cook out of a trailer and serve five-course prix fixe menus, and the vibe is rustic and romantic as you dine under twinkly lit oak trees.
18. Dine at a gas station at Whip In: A gas-station-turned-convenience-store-turned-gastropub with a South Austin hippie vibe. There's a vast selection of craft beer and a unique Tex-Mex/Indian menu featuring dishes like Kashmir Frito Pie and Cilantro Chutney Queso.
19. Experience a 12-seat Japanese Restaurant: Otoko is a multi course omakase experience which seats only 12 at a time. You need advance reservations to enjoy the meal of a lifetime.
20. Don't just try one food truck, try them at all an Austin food truck park: Did you even go to Austin if you don't dine at a food truck? Level up by dining at food truck spot rather than just a lone truck. Here are some great food truck parks to add to your bucket list: Pangea Lounge on East Sixth Street, Rainey Street Food Trucks on Rainey Street, East Riverside Food Trucks in the East Riverside South Shore neighborhood, The Picnic just a few blocks from Barton Springs Pool and at the Spider House property.
Beer & Cocktails:
There's an endless list of beer and cocktails to try, but for the sake of your liver, we've narrowed down the most unique.
21. Mexican Martini at Trudy's: A potent Mexican martini; it's not really Mexican, but it's a margarita version of a martini.
22. Austin Eastciders at the Mohawk: Austin Eastciders prides itself on making cider the traditional way. The apples are sourced from Europe and Washington State, giving their cider an amazing crisp and balanced taste. The Mohawk carries several varieties and is an awesome music venue, so you can check two things off the bucket list.
23. Poet's Muse at The Roosevelt Room: The Roosevelt Room became notorious after securing the title of Most Imaginative Bartender in 2015. The winning drink, Poet's Muse, is still on the menu today. It's made with gin, poet’s cordial (pistachio milk sweetened with wildflower honey, cinnamon, star anise, vanilla bean, and matcha), a fresh citrus blend, and an umami tincture. It’s served in a chilled coupe and garnished with lime peel.
24. Mezcal at Mezcalería Tobalá: An intimate Oaxacan Mezcalería offering a broad selection of mezcals. Half pours are served in a clay copita and full pours are served in a traditional veladora glass.
25. Willie's Cup at Geraldine's: A creative take on a mint julep made from double rye whiskey, housemade hemp seed milk, and muddled fresh sage. It’s served in a steel cup, wrapped with a red bandana, secured with a roach clip, and garnished with sage leaves- all as an ode to Willie Nelson.
26. Avocado Margarita at Curra's Grill: Curra's touts themselves as "Home of the Original Avocado Margarita in Austin." This boozy, creamy, frosty concoction sounds like heaven to us!
27. Cascabel Cream Stout from 512 Brewing: Known in the winter months for their smooth and creamy stout that starts off sweet but then hits you with a spicy kick from the 20 pounds of guajillo chiles they add to each batch, 512 Brewing's Summer of Funk Series is just as exciting.
Arts & Culture:
Austin has a booming art scene and more museums and art galleries than you can ask for. Here's what should be on every art lover's Austin bucket list.
28. Cathedral of Junk: A unique and eclectic art structure made from junk that took the artist 29 years to create in his backyard.
29. Blanton Museum of Art: Noted as one of the largest university art museums the country, Blanton Museum of Art isn't your average art museum. Here, you'll find notably funkier art exhibits and installations, including contemporary art projects.
30. Go on an art mural scavenger hunt: There are art murals all over the city. Spend a whole day looking for them and see how many you can find. They are literally everywhere from sidewalks to back alleys to gas stations. You'll find some great ones in downtown, on The Drag (portion of Guadalupe Street that runs along the western edge of the University of Texas campus), and on SoCo (South Congress). But really, EVERYWHERE!
31. Check out the world's first photograph: The Harry Ransom Center is one of the best research libraries in the nation and contains all kinds of unique discoveries like the world's first photograph, an original Gutenberg Bible, David Foster Wallace's heavily annotated self-help collection, and some of Shakespeare's First Folio.
32. Go museum hopping: There's something for everyone like the Austin Nature and Science Center (located near Barton Springs), Museum of the Weird, Museum of Natural and Artificial Ephemerata, Mexic-Arte Museum, Bullock Texas State History Museum, kid-friendly The Thinkery, and so much more.
33. Wander the Umlauf Sculpture Garden: Charles Umlauf's work is housed in a four acre garden full of streams and even a waterfall.
34. Take in a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse: Named the best movie theater in the country by some of the most famous directors and actors. All locations offer themed movie nights, custom pre-show clips, fried pickles, and draft beer.
Austin is best known for its thriving live music scene. Here are some musical experiences to add to your Austin bucket list.
35. Buy records at Waterloo: Take a trip back in time to a classic record store of the past and pick up some music. Try something new or pick up an old favorite. It's an experience many music lovers rave about.
36. Catch a show at The Continental Club: This venue is known as the granddaddy of music venues. It has been featuring Austin's best talent since 1957.
37. Beat the Monday Blues with a bluegrass show at Radio Coffee & Beer: The owner combines his love of coffee, beer, and bluegrass with a live show every Monday night.
38. Listen to music at a circus themed lounge: Carousel is a fun dive bar that has been going strong since the 70s. Feel free to bring your own beer, they have a BYOB policy.
39. Take a dance class at The Broken Spoke: The last of the true Texas dance halls. The Broken Spoke has been an Austin tradition since 1964 and has a reputation for great live country music and good Texas cooking.
40. Catch a show weekly at a different venue: With over 250 music venues in Austin and dozens more live music spots, you could easily catch a show at a different venue every week for a year. Here are some venues to put on your radar: The White Horse, The Sahara Lounge, Emo's East, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Beerland, Elephant Room, Paramount Theatre, Hole in the Wall, Saxon Pub, and Skylark Lounge.
Top off your Austin experience with a stay as unique as the rest of your trip.
41. Firehouse Hostel and Lounge: Located in the oldest standing fire station in Austin, the Firehouse Hostel combines the feel of a boutique hotel with the convenience of a hostel. It's just a few blocks away from 6th Street, making it perfect for travelers who want to stay close to the action.
42. Park Lane Guest House: A B&B well-known for its innovative chefs as well as its eclectic decor. The Victorian house was renovated with brightly colored shingles, stained glass details, and all kinds of repurposed materials. The hosts serve up their own creations featuring fresh ingredients from the backyard, including eggs from their own chickens.
43. Hotel Saint Cecilia: A luxury hotel that still feels super laid-back and perfect for a boho spirit. The hotel was named in honor of the patron saint of music and poetry and pays homage to the late 1960s and early 1970s revolution of rock and roll and beat poetry.
44. HK Austin: A hostel, or co-living space, situated in an elegant Victorian mansion that's a registered historic trademark in Austin. This will change your vision of hostel stays.
45. Casulo Hotel: This boutique hotel is redefining rest and relaxation. Inspired by the Zen philosophy, every inch of the Casulo Hotel is designed to make sure guests leave fully rested and completely reinvigorated.